While some athletes still use illegal performance enhancing drugs (PEDs), I refute the suggestion that the Tokyo Olympics (OG) will be among the dirtiest games of all time.
I support this despite the World Anti-Doping Agency reporting a 50% drop in drug testing in 2020, with that lower level still representing 167,759 tests across all sports for the year.
I focus on the sport of track and field to make my case.
First, while it is likely that some athletes were tempted to take advantage of declining drug testing rates in 2020 due to the coronavirus, all athletes remained under scrutiny based on substantial testing and required to provide information on their location.
With the International Olympic Committee noting that the pace of testing “had almost returned to normal in the second half of the year,” the Athletics Integrity Unit (which tests for World Athletics) also reported that 60% of its competitive testing during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 took place.
In 2020, the Athletics Integrity Unit’s Registered Testers Group (RTP), which tests the top 10 to 15 male and female athletes in each athletic discipline, collected 4,767 samples from 1,177 athletes with 4,204 out-of-competition tests. This included testing 784 elite athletes from 79 countries.
In other words, top track and field athletes were at the same considerable risk as 2019 men’s 100m world champion Christian Coleman and 2019 400m women’s world champion Salwa Eid Naser who were both banned for having violates Anti-Doping Rule 2.4, which concerns “any combination of three missed tests and / or failures of classification”.
Second, taking DEP in 2020 and stopping at the end of 2020, or early 2021 when further testing resumes, is unlikely to give you any lasting benefit.
While the literature suggests that the benefits of using PEDs can last for many years, with one study claiming that weightlifters who quit taking steroids had a benefit in their sport years later, there is little to say about it. data that can quantify the gains made on developing countries and losses. once the DEP has been stopped according to the same training protocol.
There are few athletes who would reveal the truth about the rate of improvement and decline in PED use, as such admissions would ruin their reputation.
My own considerable observation of PED use by bodybuilders, weightlifters, and athletes concludes that most strength gains are lost within three to four months after the effective dose is completed.
That’s why Ben Johnson clocked a best of 6.57 in the 60m when he returned to competition in 1991 and 1992 after his two-year drug ban, despite running 6.41 in 1987.
Johnson, who ran 5.65 for the 55m in 1993 (just 0.04 off the world record), would only do so using testosterone which was exposed by a failed doping test in the same meeting.
Third, we can observe recent efforts by World Athletics to test athletes in countries with questionable or missing test protocols.
This is a gradual process, which may have started before Sebastian Coe was elected IAAF President in 2015 with his determination to embrace independent doping tests after it was reported that a third party medals awarded in endurance events at the Olympics and world championships between 2001 and 2012 were won by athletes who had suspicious test results at a time when blood transfusions and micro-doses of EPO were used to increase the number of red blood cells.
For example, with Jamaica having virtually no out-of-competition testing in the six months leading up to the 2012 London Olympics, and blood tests only started in Jamaica in 2015, the Jamaican Anti-Doping Commission received more resources to improve your game.
Data from March 2021 shows that Jamaica has performed 249 blood tests and 69 out-of-competition urine tests in the past 12 months.
And with considerable concern for Kenyan athletes in recent years, increased testing efforts have resulted in around 50 top Kenyan athletes testing positive for banned DEPs in recent years, including the 2008 Olympic champion. and 2011, 2013 and 2015 world champion Asbel Kiprop in the 1500m.
New anti-doping regulations require Kenyan athletes to pass at least three out-of-competition tests within 10 months of a major championship and at least three weeks apart.
Only this week, Kenya were forced to remove two riders from their Olympic team a few days ago because they had failed to complete the required number of out-of-competition doping controls, including Kamar Etiang, 18, who has surprised by finishing second in the 1500m. in practice with a personal best.
In recent years, with countries like Kenya, Ethiopia, Ukraine and Belarus identified as being at higher risk for doping, targeted countries are required to ask their sports federations to provide adequate doping control plans before any world championship or olympic games.
Therefore, the IAU has the power to investigate national federations in the event of breach of new obligations, to compel them to cooperate in any investigation and to monitor their compliance with the rules.
Of course, any testing regimen can always be improved.
Why not extend the limitation period under the Olympic Charter to retest samples beyond the current eight years to further scare athletes who are tempted to cheat with banned PEDs?
The US initiative to make information about people tested public should be emulated by World Athletics to encourage national support for the process and pay more attention to athletes who are not tested.
Since the benefits of DEPs last for several weeks after use, World Athletics could uphold the International Testing Agency group’s recommendation that up to six drug tests are performed in the six months leading up to the Olympics, despite the average annual cost of funding an athlete. in the RTP already being around US $ 10,500 in 2019.
I support this despite the fact that the International Testing Agency did not start testing athletes going to Tokyo until May 13, although this late start was much better than the Rio 2016 Olympics where more than 1,900 Athletes in 10 key sports have not been tested in the previous months, in line with previous Olympic training where athletes are only tested after arriving at the games.
Of course, I am not naive enough to suggest that the task of stopping the illegal use of PED is near.
The fact that top athletes continue to be caught shows that some are always ready to cheat, or at best are not ready to concede a possible advantage to other athletes.
But to suggest that the Tokyo Olympics are one of the dirtiest of all time is nonsense and a bane to World Athletics’ recent efforts to encourage cleaner sport.
I agree with World Athletics President Sebastian Coe who argues that athletics competitors who dope are “more likely to be caught” at the Tokyo Olympics than previous Olympics, because the IAU independent is not afraid of its reputation, is not afraid, uses the latest technology, and is much more intelligence-oriented through the employment of sophisticated international investigators.